It seems almost tragic that the acronym "SGR" has disappeared from the news, but there are still lots of stories that never get old. Even the ones that don't age well tend to pop up without warning, though, including questions about the viability of China as a med tech market and a new twist on interoperability.
Asian dragon or a snake in the grass?
Sometimes paper is just paper, a comment that might aptly be directed at mainland China's yuan. Some saw the recent move to pull down the yuan's value as a way to prop up exports, but there appears to be a copycat movement afoot that is already creating serious ripple effects.
We examined the underpinnings of China's economic present and future last year, asking among other things how long Beijing could sustain its monetary three-ring circus. The latest currency manipulation has not helped the Shanghai index, which has shed roughly 40% in the past two months, part of the reason the Dow lost more than 1,700 points between Aug. 10 and Aug. 24.
Granted the U.S. economy is propped up by the Federal Reserve's use of a zero federal funds rate, but consider the impact on demand – and the concomitant hit China's economy would take – if Janet Yellen & Co. decided to start pushing rates up again.
All of this leads one to wonder if med tech is smartly invested in an economy with a banking system that's still based on some pretty rotten timbers. That's not exactly news, but what is more obvious now than in August of last year is that China's computer-based piracy is by some accounts tantamount to a declaration of IT war.
The cavalry is all tied up
Several major med tech firms rely on China for a noticeable percentage of their sales, and some analysts believe that any slowdown of business in China in the second half of this calendar year is likely to be modest. But the Eurozone still struggles with the anemic Mediterranean economies, and oil prices of $40 per barrel aren't doing much for the economies of Russia, Mexico and a number of nations in the Middle East.
So is John Wayne about to ride over the hill and save the world? Probably not. There was a time when the U.S. economy was massive enough to pull up the rest of the world, but that's a faint hope for what has become a ridiculously over-regulated American economy.
FDA jumps into the interop quagmire
Just tweet "interoperability" to physicians on Twitter and you'll get a downright visceral reaction, but the push for a national medical device surveillance system has introduced this concept into the wider world of med tech. FDA's latest report on this notion discusses how registries and other sources of data might be linked to forge such a system, but the document acknowledges that linking these data sources will create interoperability issues.
Much ado about nothing? Maybe, but vendors of electronic health record software knew about the need for interoperability quite some time ago. Former HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt started talking about EHR interoperability no later than in 2006, and here we are nine years later. The operators of these registries probably heard next to nothing about it until relatively recently.
As was the case with "doc fix," we scribblers are going to get a lot of mileage out of interoperability, and our keyboards might get more mileage out of it than the 18 years of wear and tear the S, G and R keys endured.